I never considered myself a confident plus-size girl when I was younger, and it wasn’t until I was older that I realized that you could be deemed more than “pretty for a big girl.” I learned that beautiful lesson in college when I met one of the people I would later look up to, Brandi “Duchii” Mallory.
Positive, plus-size role models were scarce growing up. Like every other big girl in America, I was stuck finding inspiration from fictional characters whose stories often didn’t reflect the woman I wanted to be – fierce, confident, and bold.
See, college in the South changed EVERYTHING for me. Why? Because the big girls were POPPIN’! Clark Atlanta University (CAU) had beautiful, plus-size women on its campus like Brandi, who weren’t afraid of their curves and flaunted them proudly. She later became my pageant mother for the “Bold, Beautiful, & Chic Society” pageant and helped mold me into the confident woman I am today.
Accepting that one of my college role models is no longer here has been hard to swallow. Losing someone you looked up to is never an easy experience. And despite understanding how short our time on Earth is, a new loss is just another brutal reminder that life is temporary.
There aren’t enough words to fully describe how much she meant to her loved ones and the CAU family. But I hope my words are enough for those who didn’t know her to understand how much she impacted those around her and the legacy she left behind.
Brandi’s impact extended far beyond her immediate circle. She was a former contestant of the hit TV show “Extreme Weight Loss,” a makeup artist, plus-positive advocate, and fitness enthusiast. She touched the lives of celebrities, plus size models, young women she mentored, and countless others who found solace in her message of self-love. Brandi’s bright personality and positivity rubbed off on everyone she interacted with.
Two Peas in A Pod
After hearing the news, one of the first people I instantly thought of was Brandi’s best friend and brother, CJ Washington. The two had known each other for 25 years and were a huge part of each other’s lives.
“Brandi lived by pretty much inspiring. She was a very inspirational person, and she wanted to see body positivity for plus size women, which was something I loved about her,” explained the entrepreneur. “When Brandi walked into a room, she commanded the room as a plus-size woman. She was [also] very big on being a ‘transformational enthusiast.’ [She] helped transform minds, bodies, and souls, whether it was through makeup, fitness, or any other types of ways. It was just what she embodied.”
Washington described his best friend as the “epitome of love and light.” “She loved everyone, and so many people loved her,” he explained.
Witnessing CJ Washington’s strength over the last month is indescribable. Not only did he take time to meet with everyone who attended, but he also ensured everyone celebrated Brandi the best way CAU could during her candlelight service.
“Seeing all the love she’s received, whether it was her homegoing service or the candlelight vigil we held in Atlanta, Dallas, and Los Angeles, shows how much of an impact my best friend made on others,” Washington shared. “Brandi shined her light, and people felt it. They saw it.”
“She broke so many stereotypes about women with curves through mentoring young women, competing in pageants, and being an ambassador in fitness for plus size women. So, her legacy is tremendous,” he added.
Washington plans to keep Brandi’s legacy going so one day, everyone will know what the “Brandi Mallory Experience” is.
Brandi Mallory’s Impact on The Bold, Beautiful, & Chic Society
While attending CAU, Mallory was a member of multiple organizations, including Gamma Sigma Sigma National Service Sorority, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and the first attendant of CAU’s Royal Court 2010-2011, to name a few. But the organization where she changed lives, mine included, was the Bold, Beautiful, & Chic Society—a place representing the full-figured women on campus.
Brandi Mallory was a part of the first-ever “Bold, Beautiful, & Chic” (BBC) pageant. Her pageant sister and best friend, Keia Walker, later became my pageant mother. The two spent countless hours working tirelessly for the organization. They were also inseparable on campus and contributed to my first gray hair in college. The girls that get it get it!
“We served on the first court of the Bold, Beautiful, & Chic Society. Brandi was the first attendant, ‘Miss Full Figured,’ and I was the second attendant, ‘Miss Double XL.’ It was the first court of the organization back in January 2009,” Walker recalled.
“Even in the beginning, she embraced me immediately. She took me under her wing when we started the pageant. We could relate to each other because we were the same size; we were the two ‘plus plus’ girls in the pageant. So, we immediately clicked [and] she always took care of me. And although we were competition, we always worked together. So, it never felt like a competition with her. It was always me and her against the world,” Walker admitted. They treated and loved each other like sisters.
Walker continued, “After the pageant, I worked with her throughout BBC. I served as President, and she served as Vice President, and we worked closely together over the years, being over the organization and coordinating the pageant. Even after [Brandi’s] graduation, Brandi was always active in the organization,” she added.
She commended her sister’s hard work and daringness always to be the greatest. “Brandi would use the quote: ‘If you reach for the stars, you might get to the top of a tree, but at least you got off the ground,’” Walker revealed.
“I feel like no matter what Brandi did, she always reached for the stars. She always reached to do the greatest thing she possibly could. Just like when she was running for Miss CAU, she knew there was one previous plus size contestant who had run, and she was the second attendant. But Brandi wanted to get the queen title. That was her goal,” Walker added. “So, she reached for the stars. She always strived for greatness…in herself and others.”
Watching Brandi run for Miss CAU that year was an experience many on campus would not forget, especially the younger plus size students. Brandi went on to win First Attendant.
Brandi’s impact on Walker was her “go-getter” mentality and reaching for greatness. She always wanted people to know you could have fears and still achieve greatness.
“Brandi had her moments of doubt and fear. She would have her moment and then say, ‘OK, let me pull it together.’ But I think because people always saw the awesomeness and greatness that she did, sometimes, they forgot she was still human. They were few and far between, but she had her moments; I think anyone can relate to that,” she said.
Keeping Brandi Mallory’s Legacy Alive
Walker plans to keep Brandi’s legacy alive by getting BBC (the organization) up and running again and restarting the BBC pageant, which shuttered during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, the current ladies are renaming the pageant in Brandi’s honor.
Brandi Mallory wasn’t just a friend but a mentor who shaped people’s perspectives on beauty. She taught us that beauty wasn’t confined to a particular size or shape. In her bold, unapologetic demeanor, Brandi shattered the myth that plus size people couldn’t be “sexy” or “beautiful.”
As we mourn the loss of Brandi, let us remember the vibrant, fearless woman she was and carry forward the lessons she imparted. Brandi’s legacy lives through her family and friends. Whether it was the plus size girl from a small military base, her childhood best friend, or a fellow peer turned pageant sister turned family, she taught everyone invaluable lessons.
She reminded us that this world continually needs a reminder to embrace diversity and celebrate everybody. May we all strive to embody the unapologetic confidence and resilience that she so effortlessly embodied.